New highways contract to deliver improvements from this autumnParking, roads and transport
13 June 2022
Residents should start seeing immediate improvements to roads and signage in West Northamptonshire when the new highways service launches this autumn, according to proposals set out by Council’s preferred contractor.
Cleaning road signs, removing vegetation, replacing worn road markings and providing better updates and information to residents, parish councils and businesses are among the plans for the first few months of the new highways maintenance contract, agreed between the council and the contractor, when it starts this September.
Under the new contract with Kier, West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) will deliver a brand new service with priorities and requirements specifically tailored to West Northamptonshire and a fresh flexibility to meet the changing priorities of the council and needs of its community.
The Council is increasing investment to the service by more than £1million per year, and will also have greater control, putting in place its own contract management team to monitor performance, which will include clear, strong goals for improving customer focus and providing value for money.
In the run-up this summer, WNC will be working with Kier on developing and agreeing a programme of work for the first 100 days of the service, which will then lay firm foundations for continuous improvements.
The new contractor has also set a commitment to working with the Council on its sustainability goals to achieve net zero by 2030, including ensuring its fleet of vehicles are either ultra-low emissions or run using alternative fuels as well as plans to pilot future green solutions such as hydrogen.
Kier has also pledged to create additional social value benefits equivalent to 30 per cent of the annual contract budget to benefit the wider West Northants community and economy, including ensuring at least 70 per cent of supply chain spending is with local businesses and SMEs by the end of the first year, employing 10 per cent of the workforce as local graduates and apprentices, providing work opportunities for young people not in employment, education or training and increasing the number of employees with disabilities year on year.
The new contract will run for seven years, with the potential to extend to a maximum of 14 years, based on performance and quality of the service.
The decision for West Northamptonshire was made under delegated authority by the Council’s Executive Director Place, Economy and Environment and Executive Director Finance, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Environment, Transport, Highways and Waste Services, and the Portfolio Holder for Finance, using a necessarily rigorous process.
WNC has worked closely with NNC on the process for procuring the new highways contracts, which started in November 2020 and has involved several selection stages to narrow down and shortlist prospective suppliers.
The highways contract will also be the subject for discussion at the forthcoming meeting on the WNC Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which will be held at 6pm on 28 June.
Cllr Jonathan Nunn, Council Leader, said: "Procuring a highways contract is an extremely complex process and is heavily controlled and regulated as we must adhere to strict, procurement regulations. The process started over 18 months ago, with councillors setting and agreeing the way in which the procurement route would be undertaken, but then they are required to stand back as that process is strictly adhered to.
The whole process is highly confidential to ensure the outcome cannot be pre-judged, with only myself and our Highways Cabinet Member being informed of the successful bidder on the same day of the decision, which was just a couple of hours before the result was then publicly announced.
"However as soon as we were aware we immediately arranged for all elected members to be briefed on the process at the earliest opportunity, and also for our Scrutiny Committee to examine it as soon as they can, which will be 28th June.
"Flexibility to change and address residents’ priorities with a positive attitude, stronger contract management, and more investment make this a better contract for West Northants than the previous contract, but we’ll be reporting the performance of the contract on a quarterly basis publicly at our Cabinet meetings.
"And we want people to see a real difference when this new contract starts, so we’re working with Kier to come up with a plan that makes sure that they do."